Tennis battlers hold on to the dream
THE dream is holding the Wimbledon trophy aloft in front of thousands of adoring fans, making millions of dollars and flying to the next grand slam in a private jet.
The reality for aspiring tennis players is more likely to be cheap meals and budget motels as they eke out a living on the regional circuit.
Professional player John Millman, 22, knows these struggles firsthand as he toughs it out on the court and on the road in search of his dream to top the tennis rankings.
John's on the Coast for the Caloundra International tennis tournament which was won last year by a then little-known Australian by the name of Bernard Tomic.
John lost to Tomic in last year's semi-final taking it to him in an epic encounter before eventually going down 8-6 in the final set.
Knowing that someone from the ranks of the battlers can make the big time is what keeps John and others like him putting in the hard slog.
"Losing to Tomic last year by such a small margin shows just how close it is," he said as he prepared for his qualifying match yesterday.
"Now Bernard is ranked 34 in the world.
"After that I was going well on tour until I got injured."
In the lead-up to Wimbledon last year John suffered a shoulder injury and failed to seek medical help.
Relying on prize money to continue on the tour, he decided to play on.
That led to a severe shoulder injury and time off the court.
"I knew something was wrong with the shoulder but didn't get it looked at as I needed to compete to get paid," he said.
"If I was at home I would have had it looked at but being in another country and without a coach made it hard.
"I had to fly home and have surgery which cost me about five months away from the tour."
Fellow competitor Brydan Klein, also 22, is another tennis hopeful struggling with the adversities of being on the circuit.
Brydan said full sponsorship was usually only afforded to those in the top 100.
"I won the Junior Australian Open when I was 18 and picked up Adidas as a main sponsor, but it was only a two-year sponsorship," he said.
"At the end of that I hadn't worked my way into the top 100 and got dropped."
On top of the financial struggles and injuries, players have to deal with the loneliness of being in foreign places away from loved ones.
"A lot of the time you're away from family and friends and you can't have a proper relationship," Brydan said.
"It's very hard but it's rewarding if you play well."
The players live with the fear of failure every time they step on to the court and know they will ultimately have to decide how long to keep going.
"In the next couple of years I'll have to start looking at other alternatives as a back-up plan if it doesn't pay off," Brydan said.
"The thing is that if you've grown up doing something and you're reasonably good at it then you've got to give it a crack. I don't want to be one of those guys that gets old and dies wondering."